Growing old can be a terrible thing.

I hate watching people around me grow old. I like to remember them as they were when I was younger, and they were younger. When I was a wee tot, my father was Superman. He could heft a couch with one hand while he cut down a tree with a chainsaw with his other hand. He knew exactly how to unhook my snagged fishing lines, how to tinker with my car engine to get it going again, and never tired of hitting line drives and grounders at me.

Now he seems much older. He has to eat a lot of vegetables and passes on pasta. It’s because of his diabetes. He gets tired easy and falls asleep most afternoons at three. It’s difficult watching your father, the invincible man, succumb to age. It makes you think of a time when he won’t be able to do much of anything.

My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer recently. She opted to forego treatment. The cancer was pretty far along when they caught it and everybody in the family feels pretty badly about that. It is the second hard blow she has been dealt in recent years. She lost her eyesight nine years ago.

It is sad to think of losing someone that was so much a part of your past. You like to remember them as they were, not as they are now. I do not say that my grandmother is a husk of a woman, or that my father is old and decrepit. They both have a lot of life inside them, in their minds, and they live very well in the space of being. It is their bodies that seem to be wearing out – that seem to be stealing from them all the old joys they once used to have. New joys will replace the old ones, but it is not quite the same.

This is what age does to us. It takes from us the ability to do what we once could. And that is a difficult thing to adjust to.

I myself have felt old recently, older than my years. As a youngster I was very active – much of the time I was on my feet, running around, jumping around, doing something. I played three sports in high school, two in college. But now if I try to do something physical like I did then, I find that my body can no longer keep up its once torrid pace. I also find that the next day I don’t recover or heal as quickly as I used to. Nor can I eat the things I once did. I pay for them now.

When I see my father nod off earlier than he used, or when I see my grandmother’s hands shake when she lifts a glass of water, in some ways I am reminded of my own mortality. Someday it will be me, who can no longer run several miles, or lift my suitcase for traveling. I do not like to think of that future – I have so much of my own left to write.

But it does remind me that I need to make all my yesterdays count.

© Seth Crossman